It all started with adolescent boredom.
Kelly Hansen was complaining to her dad about how boring Millwood was, how there was nothing to do.
“So my Dad said, ‘Well, rather than just complain about it, why don’t you fix it?’” recalls Kelly. “So I came up with a few ideas, and after talking about them, we decided the farmers market was the best one.”
So Kelly and her dad, Dan, who are members of Millwood Community Presbyterian Church, talked to Pastor Craig Goodwin about possibly using the church parking lot as a market’s location.
The request turned out to be serendipitous. The Hansens had missed Goodwin’s recent sermon on the dynamic of farmers markets and how they can build strong communities. With the church’s blessing, the project then moved to the Millwood Town Hall for additional research.
“Although we found our challenges as there were no existing town ordinances or codes for a farmers market in Millwood, we discovered that one-third of the church parking lot was actually zoned for ‘pedestrian/retail use,’” laughs Goodwin. “At that point we realized it was all part of the plan; we were just there to see it through.”
The next step was to talk to Anna Ethington, then coordinator for the Humble Earth and South Perry Farmers Markets, for tips on how to start a market.
Anna shared her wisdom and a suggested a few of her vendors for this venture—Rocky Ridge Ranch, SusieDavid’s Cattle Company, and Arabesque Farms— whose owners would ultimately make up the Millwood Farmers’ Market board, along with Jeff and Julia Postelwait of the local Rocket Bakery and Goodwin.
Kelly and her dad then made a “compelling” presentation to the Millwood Town Council and by May 2007, the market was up and running.
Hosted by the church, Millwood Farmers Market is organized in cooperation with local area farmers and artisans. It features live music and is open Wednesdays from 3 to 7 p.m., May thru October.
Last winter, the Market continued its operation throughout the cold season, setting up shop in The Crossing Youth Center on the east side of the parking lot.
With a variety of vendors including local farm-raised beef, artisan breads, honey, plants, sauces and crafts, even greenhouse-grown lettuce, the winter market proved to be a success, and at the same time, made great use of The Crossing space.
“To be able to support the local economy year-round is very rewarding,” says winter newcomer Stuart Fry, owner of C&S HydroHut Lettuce. “I love to see people’s reactions to what we have to offer…fresh lettuce in the winter isn’t easy to find.”
Those reactions have kept Fry busy.
Filling the much-needed void for local greens, year-round, Stuart has cornered the market with his $2/ head selection of mainly Butterhead, Romaine, red and green leaf lettuces, as well as kale, arugula, and Swiss chard, all of which will keep in the refrigerator for up to four weeks.
His ability to keep prices low is due to his year-round operation in a greenhouse he and his wife turned into their business last September.
The plants are fed by a circulating solution of water and mineral salts, using only about a tenth of the water a crop farmer would use.
Another new market vendor is owner Shari Thompson-Brown’s PureHeart Exquisite Handcrafted Soaps. These all-natural glycerin soaps have received an “awesome reception,” and she’s looking forward to the open-air market season, and also plans to set up shop at the Liberty Lake, Fresh Abundance and South Perry markets.
With farmers markets steadily on the rise in the eastern Washington/North Idaho region (there are currently 11), vendors can build a good customer base by setting up several area markets throughout the week, thus “making their efforts sustainable,” says Dave of SusieDavid’s Cattle Company.
“It’s a rewarding relationship for everyone involved,” continues Dave. “That connection with people …it really makes the difference.”
SusieDavids Cattle, a popular vendor at the Millwood Market, with tempting selections of sausage samples on a toothpick, sells 100 percent all-natural beef, sausage, eggs, and produce including Yukon potatoes, butternut squash, pie pumpkins and sweet corn.
Having held down the northwest corner of the market since day one, Dave has witnessed its “phenomenal growth,” starting with 12-14 vendors in 2007. This year the market expects 35 vendors at the peak of the season, when summer crops start arriving.
Making it even easier this year for vendors to conduct business is the addition of the ability to process debit and credit cards, and EBT (low-income) transactions through a wooden token exchange.
Paid for by a $2,000 grant through the “Local Farms, Healthy Kids Act,” the awarded money helped cover hardware, marketing and advertising costs.
The market is also enrolled for its second year in the state’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Programs for Women, Infants and Children and for seniors.
So what does Kelly, now a sophomore at West Valley High School, think of what’s become of the idea she thought up one boring summer afternoon in Millwood?
“I think it’s pretty cool,” says Kelly. “I like getting people excited about something I believe in.”
Having earned the Youth Chase Award for starting the market and for re-opening her (at-the-time) middle school library, the busy teen is now on to yet another Millwood project—Millwood Teen Council.
Although she still shows her “moral support” to the market by patronizing the vendors and by often helping set up or take down the market with her dad, her priority project now is to get Millwood youth involved in the city’s decision-making to promote a more youth-engaged community—a mission of Pastor Craig’s as well, since he arrived in Millwood in 2004.
Aiming to do just that, the Millwood Farmers Market Board decided to hold a poster contest in March and April of this year, among youth in the community.
The response was impressive with 45 entries coming in, and two were chosen as winners, one per age bracket of kindergarten through fifth grade and sixth through 12th grades.
First grader, Sadie Langford, of Ness Elementary, and sixth grader, Abigail Swanson, of Centennial Middle School won for their impressive use of color, clarity of their message, and portrayal of the unique flavor of the City of Millwood and Millwood Farmers Market.
“It’s fun to be on the advocacy side of local food…creating a sustainable market that directly benefits our community,” Goodwin said.
“This was a way for the youth in our community to get involved with that as well.”